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Threats and Rejection

Threats and Rejection

Lent 2020 Message #3

Throughout the season of Lent, we move ever closer to the celebration of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, which was His death on a cross. That sacrifice is so important because it - along with His resurrection on the third day after His death and the acceptance of what Jesus did - is what makes it possible for us to be blessed here on earth and to look forward to being in Heaven.

Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice. However, it was not the only suffering Jesus experienced. It is some of those other examples we are considering in this year’s Lenten sermons.

For instance, as discussed the first Sunday of Lent two weeks ago, Jesus suffered with His disciples being so slow to learn and understand. Over and over Jesus showed His power and love, but so many times, His closest followers did not seem to realize those qualities. That had to have been frustrating for Jesus.

As discussed last Sunday, Jesus suffered with a very, very busy ministry, demands on His power, love coming all the time. As mentioned, Jesus never shied away from helping people. However, though Jesus was 100% divine, He was here in human form. The human body He had most certainly got tired as He served others.

The hope expressed in the first Lenten message was that Jesus, despite His frustration with His disciples, continued to work with them, which eventually paid huge dividends following His death and resurrection as His followers had fantastically-effective ministries. Jesus is still willing to work with us so we, too, can serve Him well.

The hope expressed last week was that Jesus still is willing to help His people. The joy is that no matter how many times we go to the Lord with our needs, He continues to be ready and willing to help us.

Today, another example of Jesus suffering. Actually, three examples, two of which fall under the heading of threats. Examples that go beyond frustration and fatigue. Examples that threatened His very life. Of course, He did eventually die, but before that, Jesus was threatened. Let’s consider two of those times.

The first time for this message is recorded in Luke 4, beginning with verse 16. It was a time very early in Jesus’ ministry. How interesting that even at the start, there were people against the Lord.

Luke 4 begins with Jesus spending time in a wilderness, then being tempted by Satan. Tempted to turn away from His purpose and calling. That was suffering that will be discussed later this Lenten season. 

Jesus survived the temptations, after which He went from the wilderness to Nazareth, where He had spent most of His growing up years.

One sabbath day Jesus went to the town’s synagogue, as was His custom. That day, He took a turn at doing a Scripture reading. 

Jesus stood to read. He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book to the place where these words are written. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

What Jesus selected to read from Isaiah was a passage of prophecy. A passage that foretold what the Savior - the Savior dreamed of and hoped for, even at the time Jesus read the words - t would do in helping people through preaching and healing.

Jesus read those words of prophecy. He closed the book, gave it back to the synagogue’s attendant, and sat down. He then said some very crucial words. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Those words mean Jesus claimed to be the Savior foretold in Isaiah. Isn’t that amazing? What Jesus said was and is true, but how amazing that He claimed to be the Savior, doing so freely and openly. Not arrogantly, but truthfully.

At first, all spoke well of Jesus. They did so even though they had some questions about Him. One question in particular. The question, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” The implication was that they knew Jesus. How could someone they knew be the Savior?

Had Jesus stopped there, He likely would have avoided trouble that day, but He added to what He had said about being the Savior. Jesus added He was aware people were questioning Him, which was, He implied, understandable. Jesus had grown up there in Nazareth. As Jesus said, “No prophet is acceptable in his own area.”

Jesus then added some more words. Words of condemnation for past events. 

In the Old Testament days of Elijah, when there was no rain for three-and-a-half years, there were many widows in Israel who suffered, yet only a foreigner was helped by Elijah. It was at least implied that others were not helped because Elijah was not accepted in his own area.

In the Old Testament days of Elisha, there were many in Israel who suffered from leprosy, yet only a foreigner - a foreign military leader - was helped. Again it was at least implied that those among God’s people who were in need were not helped because Elisha was not accepted in his own area.

In essence, Jesus accused those who had heard Him read Scripture of not accepting God’s plan. The plan that He - Jesus - was the Savior. The Savior who offered to preach and heal. Who did preach and heal for the purpose of helping people.

Verses 28 and 29 of Luke 4. When the people in the synagogue that day heard Jesus speak those additional words, they all were filled with wrath. 

Of course, what Jesus said was true. However, the people were upset that they had been corrected by someone they knew. Who did Jesus think He was talking harshly to them?

In their wrath, the people rose up. I guess the service was over. The people rose up, grabbed Jesus, and took Him out of the town. They led Him - roughly, no doubt - to the top of a nearby hill. Apparently a very long, very steep hill since their purpose was to kill Him. Wow. What a drastic reaction. They took Jesus to the top of a nearby hill, their plan being to throw Him down headlong. Their purpose was to kill Him.

What a threat that was to Jesus. A threat Jesus suffered. However, it was not yet His time to die. That time would come. We will celebrate that on Good Friday. But in Luke 4, it was not time for Jesus to die.

So Jesus escaped.

How it happened, I do not know. Maybe the people who threatened Jesus were arguing about who would or should have the privilege of throwing Jesus. Somehow Jesus was able to step away, passing through the crowd. Apparently no one noticed. Jesus got away, going north from Nazareth to the city of Capernaum, where He continued His ministry.

Jesus suffered when those He had come to save tried to kill Him. Suffering that happened again in chapter 8 of John.

Early in John 8, Jesus is toward the end of His three-year ministry. He was in Jerusalem. 

Early in the chapter, Jesus saved a woman from being stoned to death. He spent much of the rest of the chapter teaching a number of things - that He is the light of the world, which He is willing to share, and that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. That last statement offended the Jews who heard Jesus. They thought they were above sin. And even if they did sin, they thought the fact they were Jews would exempt them from God’s punishment.

Jesus also taught again that He was the Savior. That He had been the Savior forever.

All that, it seems, happened in the Temple in Jerusalem. As had earlier happened in the synagogue in Nazareth, those who heard Jesus -  the Jews who heard Him - became angry. 

Verse 59. In their anger, they took up stones. Isn’t that interesting? The Temple was to be a house of prayer, but at that moment the people were willing to make it a house of murder. The people took up stones. I guess that day’s service was over. They took up stones to throw at Jesus, their intent to kill Him right then and there. 

What a threat that was to Jesus. A threat He suffered. However, it again was not yet His time to die. That time would come. We will celebrate that on Good Friday. But in John 8, it was not yet time for Jesus to die. So it was that He was able to hide before escaping.

How that happened, I do not know. Maybe the people were again arguing, in this case, about who would or should have the privilege of throwing the first stone at Jesus. But somehow Jesus was able to hide and then escape. Apparently no one noticed it as it happened.

Once again Jesus suffered when those He had come to save tried to kill Him. The suffering was once again a physical threat. But let’s go back two chapters to John 6 for another kind of suffering Jesus experienced. An emotional suffering.

Early in John 6 we are reminded of the first of two times Jesus performed a miracle to feed thousands of people from just a little bit of food. After that, He taught people many spiritual things. He then claimed the only way to God is through Him.

Jesus then proclaimed the importance of abiding in Him, which includes knowing and then doing what He taught. That was a challenge to do more than just follow along after Jesus, listen to Him, and, at least from time to time, benefit from or at least observe His miracles .Jesus began to suggest that if anyone claimed to be a follower of Jesus, that person ought to actually do what Jesus taught.

Verse 66. After this, many of His disciples - not the 12 disciples who were His closest followers, but His other followers - “drew back,” meaning they rejected the call to actually do what Jesus taught. They drew back, no longer choosing to follow Jesus.

In that incident, Jesus was not threatened. But He did suffer. He suffered rejection. How sad that was for Him. Sadness that led Him to turn to His 12 closest followers and ask them if they, too, wished to leave Him.

Peter is the one who answered Jesus. May his response be our response. Peter said, “Lord, to whom else shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life. Their words meant, “Lord, we, too, see a great number of people leaving, but we have believed in You, and we promise to keep believing. With our belief, we have come to know that You are the Holy One of God. The Savior.”

*       *       *       *       *

As discussed two weeks ago, how good to celebrate that Jesus is willing to work with us, even if or when we struggle to learn and understand the spiritual teachings Jesus has for us. As He kept working with His original disciples, so He will keep working with us.

As discussed last week, how good to celebrate that Jesus is never too tired to help us with our needs. As He took care of needs 2ooo years ago, so He will take care of our needs right now.

As discussed today, how good to celebrate that Jesus is not deterred by threats or rejection. How easy it would have been for Jesus to step away from His ministry after being threatened with being thrown down a hill. How easy it would have been for Jesus to step away after being threatened with stoning. How easy it would have been for Jesus to give up His ministry as He watched huge crowds of people walk away from Him and the teachings, healings, and salvation He was so eager to share.

Throughout this Lenten season, let’s know of Jesus’ strength in the face of threats and rejection. Let’s cling to Him who was - and is - so strong, including when we face threats or rejection because of our faith in Jesus, which takes us to one more passage in this message. I Peter 3, beginning with verse 8.

Peter starts this passage with a call for Christians to have unity of spirit, along with sympathy and love for each other, and tender hearts and humble minds. we are to be patient with one another and - get this - even with people outside the church, keeping our tongues from speaking evil. All that so - verse 14 - “if you suffer for righteousness’ sake…” 

Remember from other passages mentioned the past two weeks that Jesus promised His followers they would - we will - face persecution.

That was taught in a sermon Jesus gave early in the Book of Matthew. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted.” The wording is “when” that happens. Not if, but when we are reviled and persecuted.

That was taught again later in Matthew. Jesus talked about the need to deny ourselves if we want to follow Jesus, and the need to take up our crosses, which is an indication of suffering. Those who choose to follow Jesus will suffer in those ways.

Verse 14 of I Peter 3 again reminds us that as followers of Jesus, we will suffer for righteousness’ sake. Even though we do and will have many good days and we have the hope of Heaven, there will be some difficult times as well because of our faith in Jesus.

But we can survive when we do what is listed in verse 14. “Have no fear” of the threats of those opposed to Jesus. As Jesus did not fear, neither should we fear. “Nor be troubled.” Verse 15. “But in your hearts reverence [deeply respect] Christ as Lord,” depending on Him to get your through.

Let’s do that, through this season of Lent and beyond.

Today’s closing song is a reminder of the joy of relying on Jesus, even in times of threats or rejection. It is ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. We are going to sing verses 1 and 4, changing the words of verse 4 to give us the opportunity to directly address Jesus.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to take Him at His word,

Just to rest upon His promise,

Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust You,

Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that You are with me,

You’ll be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust You!

How I’ve proved You o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust You more!

Lord  Jesus,  as  the  other words in the song remind us, thank You for the privilege of trusting You. Of having faith in You. 

Thank You that You have helped us learn how to step away from sin and self so we can step into life, rest, joy, and peace, all those things gifts from You.

And yes, thank You that all those blessings continue, even in times when we are threatened or rejected. They will continue when we rely on You. Amen.

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